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By Jonah Bennett
Military service academy athletes are no longer allowed to head directly into professional sports after graduation.
In a memo carrying the signature of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the Pentagon announced Monday that it’s walking back a policy from 2016 that allowed athletes to skirt the 24-month mandatory active-duty stint. The policy allowed players to serve in reserves instead of completing active-duty service.
“Our military academies exist to develop future officers who enhance the readiness and the lethality of our military services,” Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White said in a statement. “Graduates enjoy the extraordinary benefit of a military academy education at taxpayer expense.”
“Therefore, upon graduation, officers will serve as military officers for their minimum commitment of two years. The department has a long history of officer athletes who served their nation before going to the pros including Roger Staubach, Chad Hennings and David Robinson,” White continued. “The change takes effect with this graduating class.”
When the 2016 policy was initially instituted, retired Army Col. Tom Slear argued in The Washington Post that no data exists to support the idea that allowing graduates to slough off service and head directly into professional sports increases enlistment rates.
“Why do the services persist in accepting such long odds? More important, why should the taxpayers continue to fund these bets?” Slear argued.
“Meanwhile, the academies suffer a subtle erosion of their ethos. They exist to instill young men and women with a mind-set of selfless service to the country. There is no other justification for the significant public expense that supports them. Professional football, on the other hand, is about service to oneself. It has its place, but not for academy graduates who haven’t fulfilled their obligations to their fellow citizens.”
The cost of an education at one of the military academies is approximately $400,000.